The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries

Rueful Death (#5)

China takes a retreat to a nearby monastery, where the sisters grow rocambole garlic for a living. But the peaceful harmony of St. Theresa's is threatened by arson fires and a rash of nasty poison-pen letters. These dirty tricks appear to be motivated by an attempt to change rustic St. T into a posh conference center for church higher-ups—a plan made possible by a windfall inheritance from St. T's benefactor. China learns about forgiveness and mercy, and discovers some hard truths about her own limitations.

Discussion questions for Rueful Death
Warning! Contains spoilers (plot hints).

Here's what reviewers have to say about the China Bayles mysteries!

  • "An intricate and interesting puzzle." —Mostly Murder
  • "A well-plotted mystery with strong characters and a wonderfully realized setting." —Booklist
  • "Holy rocambole! unsentimental look at convent life." —Kirkus

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In Roman times, rue was used as an eyewash to cleanse the sight, and included in amulets to protect from contagious illness. By the medieval period, it was also thought to repel evil, and priests used the plant as a brush to shake holy water as they gave the blessing—hence the name, "herb of grace." Worn as an amulet, it was also believed to give the wearer the power of identifying witches. In Shakespeare's day, pots of rue were arranged in front of the judicial bench to purify the air of any plague that might be brought by prisoners from the gaol. It was also associated with the idea of repentance, or "ruefulness."

Garlic Spread
At St. Theresa's, the sisters love this garlicky spread for crackers. (Of course, they grow the garlic themselves.) You'll also enjoy this fast, flavorful treat. It's good for you, too. Garlic helps to lower cholesterol, fight colds, and boost the immune system. Eat lots.
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1-2 tblsp milk (if necessary, for proper consistency)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and mashed with the flat of a knife
  • 2 tblsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp minced fresh basil
  • cayenne pepper

Stir the cheese, adding milk if it is too stiff. Add garlic, herbs, and cayenne to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours to blend the flavors.

Fourth book in the series: Rosemary Remembered

Sixth book in the series: Love Lies Bleeding